The global tourist industry is estimated to account for more than 10% of the world’s GDP and in several Mediterranean and Caribbean countries more than double that. Now, with summer fast approaching, many of those south European countries most reliant on an annual influx of foreign visitors to keep their economies afloat are scrambling to establish ‘travel bubbles’ to at least reduce the economic havoc that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to wreak. The possibility of these bubbles gaining some form of official inter-governmental recognition could also have a positive effect on international trade – which makes an even larger contribution to the world’s economy – by increasing the free movement goods and service across borders.
Following the outstanding success of New Zealand’s swift and draconian response to coronavirus, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks set to emerge from the pandemic with her reputation even further enhanced than it already was after her handling of a succession of man-made and natural catastrophes. She has now set her sights on the post-lockdown world, and Australia and New Zealand have already agreed on a ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ between the two countries which could eventually lead to a larger such arrangement covering New Zealand and the rest of the South Pacific
Further north, Vietnam and Thailand are also looking at creating a travel corridor over the next few months, according to Mario Hardy, chief executive of the nonprofit Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).China, Hong Kong and Macao are now looking to relax the current tight border controls between themselves to ease the movement of people and goods; so far there have only been four coronavirus-related deaths in Hong Kong and none in Macau.
Last week, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia created Europe’s first travel bubble allowing their citizens and residents to move freely between the three countries – although anybody arriving from outside the zone will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This is the first of its kind to be created in EuropeTourism accounts for 15% Malta’s GDP and the government in Valetta is understandably anxious to belong to as large a bubble as possible. While the Balearic islands off Spain’s eastern coast are pinning their hopes on the establishment of safe travel corridors to and from Germany and Austria, Malta is exploring the possibility setting up a series of safe corridors with Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel.